HC Deb 10 November 1999 vol 337 cc540-1W
Mr. Chaytor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to provide additional assistance to lone parents on income support who wish to progress to higher education. [97409]

Mr. Wicks

[holding answer 9 November 1999]: The current student support system already provides help to lone parents who decide to enter higher education. Lone parents are eligible to apply for a student loan; and may receive a means tested grant towards their contribution to tuition fees, which in many cases will be the full £1,025 owed. In addition they can receive dependents' allowances, a single parent's allowance and Child Benefit, all of which are cash grants. Furthermore, lone parents remain eligible for benefits although income from student support is taken into account in assessing the amounts.

However, we recognise that we in moving to full time education some lone parents may be concerned about the additional costs of books, equipment, travel, school meals and child care. In these circumstances Access Funds and Hardship Loans, which are administered by the higher education institutions, are available. Mature students including lone parents in receipt of DSS benefits are a priority for help through Access Funds. An extra £12 million is being put into Access Funds in England this year, specifically to assist mature students, including lone parents. These now total £74.6 million, and have more than trebled since 1997–98. My Department is currently carrying out a Review of the Access Funds and Hardship Loans.

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